Rhubarb Vanilla Jam

We recently spent two weeks in Ireland.

Ruins at InisoirrIreland is gorgeous, in case you were wondering. Wildflowers are absolutely everywhere, peeking through the cracks in ancient stone walls and clumping along the sides of the roads. There are rock-bordered, green fields for miles, thanks to the soft, misty rain that falls almost every day.

Ring of KerryWe loved exploring traditional Irish farms and learning about the simplicity and resourcefulness of country life 100 years ago. We loved trying to pronounce the Irish language signs posted all around. We loved that a typical playground in Ireland has ziplines for kids and exercise equipment for parents. We loved the stunning, hazy mountains and cliffs that loomed over the Atlantic ocean. And don’t even get me started on how cool it is to find crumbling stone ruins everywhere you look.

The Best PhotoTraveling with two preschoolers was basically the worst, and that’s all I’ll say about that. (Check out my oldest throwing a tantrum instead of looking at the camera. This is literally the best family photo from the whole trip. Just so you get a clear idea. I’m not exaggerating.) But if you are ever going to travel abroad with preschoolers, you should definitely do it in Ireland, because the people there are so kind and understanding and friendly. They actually love kids. And they do not give you irritated, patronizing looks when yours are screaming and losing their minds in public places.

Rhubarb Vanilla JamAnother great thing about Irish people is that they are unflinchingly generous. For example, when we were staying in Killarney, they served this rhubarb jam with breakfast, and Dave basically ate a pint of it over four days. (He must have genetically inherited his love of rhubarb, because rhubarb desserts were on almost every menu and in every bakery in Ireland. He tried all of them.) When I asked for the recipe, the kind proprietors of the inn immediately wrote down a copy for me!

So here we are. Thank you, Ireland, for your kindness and generosity, and thank you for the rhubarb jam.

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Beet Hummus

Beet Hummus

Last week, I made these amazing beet burgers. Beets are lovely, aren’t they? I think beets are the most beautiful color in the whole world. But…I have to admit that I really hate to eat them plain. I’ve tried them in salads with goat cheese and soaked in butter and horseradish sauce. But my favorite beets are definitely those diced small and mixed well with other flavors.

As I was contemplating what to do with the lonely, leftover beet in my crisper, I suddenly remembered a batch of beet hummus Dave’s aunt had made at Christmas, and I immediately got excited.

This hummus is a little earthy and a little tangy, and full of gorgeous pink. Eat it with a huge handful of bright, raw vegetables and you will feel like you are on cloud nine.

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Red-Handed Beet Burgers

Red-Handed Beet Burger

Admit it. You love veggie burgers. You can’t escape the truth.

Veggie burgers are one of the best things about being vegetarian, in my opinion. (Why eat something boring when you can eat something creative?) And these beet burgers with quinoa and black beans are no exception! They are delightful and hearty and a little smoky.

They are also a brilliant backdrop for all sorts of toppings, so pick your pleasure and take a big bite.

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Almond Butter Cookie Cups

Almond Butter Cookie Cups

I have a new favorite dessert.

Them be fighting words, people. Favorite is a strong statement.

It’s almond butter cups. You know, like peanut butter cups, but with almonds. And, surprise! Oats! And coconut oil! And maple syrup! Instead of a dry, crumbly nut center, these cups have an almost cookie-like base with homemade chocolate on top.

And the kicker is that they are actually good for you, as far as desserts go! You see, they are full of healthy ingredients like raw cacao powder and raw nuts and unsaturated fats.

I swear no one will never eat one of these and think, “This dessert must be healthy.” Every time I set them out for a group of friends, they disappear practically in the blink of an eye. You should make these. You should make them right away!

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Green Herb Falafel

Green Herb Falafel

Do you ever just have a really bad day? Like a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day?

This has nothing to do with falafel, really. I’m just whining.

I have been sick for several days. Like the kind of sick when everything in your body suddenly revolts all at once, where you have a cold, plus a broken wrist, plus a headache that feels like it might possibly be a brain tumor, plus a fever blister, plus a few other unmentionable problems. So I woke up already feeling like I just wanted to camp out under the covers for another several hours. But I didn’t.

Dave and I had a rather tense discussion right before he left for work. The baby pulled my necklace right off my neck. And then my nephew came over for the day! Unfortunately, he and Jake spent the entire day screaming and snatching toys out of each others’ hands and smacking each other with wooden tools. And then they pulled the curtains off the wall in the playroom, leaving a thumb-size hole in the drywall above the window. After which I half-fell off a ladder onto a pile of Duplos (if you’re a parent, you know how much that hurts). And then one of the 3-year-olds peed directly on me.

I hollered uncle.

My sweet sister-in-law brought me a milkshake, and I put the kids in their rooms for nap time, intent on doing Sudoku and listening to Yes, Please and slurping my chocolate shake in peace.

But my daughter stood up in her crib and wailed for an hour instead. (Yes. I left her in there for an hour. I’m a monster.)

It’s not even dinner time, yet, friends.

I think I’ll move to Australia.

P.S., I had intended to save this recipe for when it’s Spring and sunny and you are excited about green stuff. But really I just needed some encouragement, like right now. I couldn’t wait for Spring.

Without further ado…go make falafel. And have a good day.

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Raw Fudge Brownies

Raw Fudge Brownies

If you know me, you may know that I occasionally go on a one-woman crusade against refined sugar.

(Whaaaat!? Give up refined sugar? But…what about dessert? For heaven’s sake, your blog is named after brownies, girl! No one can live without sugar. Forget diamonds, chocolate is a girl’s best friend.)

This first started as I became aware of how much sugar is in everyday foods, such as mayonnaise and bread and salad dressing and granola. At that time I had a young baby, and I was bound and determined that he would not eat any refined sugar, ever (hah). I started researching the effects of sugar on the body, and it led to making a New Year’s resolution to avoid all refined sugar for 31 days.

I never intended to give up sugar long-term, but here are a few things that happened during that month:

  1. at first, I was reallly, reallly hungry, and quite a bit cranky, but then my hunger levels started to regulate;
  2. I became more adventurous in what I ate;
  3. I stopped binge-snacking during my kid’s nap time because I was thinking more about what would be good for me to eat, and I was avoiding most of my lazy snack foods;
  4. people started telling me how thin I looked. I didn’t really lose weight during this time, but eating no refined sugar and less highly refined carbs in general actually made my body shape change! I did not exercise one single time, so this was definitely a result of my sugar fast;
  5. I felt really proud of myself;
  6. I still totally ate dessert! Because, let’s face it, no big change in your diet will be sustainable unless you find ways to include the things you really love. For me, that is dessert!
  7. everything tasted sweet even without refined sugar. When I finally started eating sugar again, I ate much smaller amounts (initially anyway) because it was overwhelmingly sweet and honestly made me feel a little sick for a few weeks.

I write a food blog and I love to bake, so I did go back to eating sugar. But I enjoyed my sugar fast more than I expected! So much that I repeat it a few times a year, especially if I have been going overboard with sugary foods or if I am feeling out of balance or mentally/physically/emotionally unhealthy.

Since my first refined sugar fast, clean eating has become quite trendy. Basically, eating “clean” involves aiming for whole, nutrient-dense foods, and avoiding highly refined foods.

These raw brownies totally fit that bill, and they are completely delicious. Not only are they sweetened entirely by the naturally occurring fruit sugars in Medjool dates, but they are full of healthy things, like raw nuts and raw cacao! They are chewy and dense and chocolatey and rich, so rich. (Plus, they are other good things, like vegan and gluten-free!)

Raw brownies will satisfy any dessert craving, and you can feel good about eating them!

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Chana Masala

Chana MasalaI adore Indian food. I love the spices and the warmth. I love that Indian food is packed with things that are good for my body, and that it doesn’t taste like “health food.” Indian food is fantastic.

But I’ve got to admit that I don’t cook Indian food at home very often. True, I love going home and recreating every delicious food in my very own kitchen; but I just find that Indian food is always better when I order it out. (Or, ahem, when friends make it for me. Yeah, you know who you are.)

In the months since learning about Caitlin’s dairy intolerance, I’ve had to avoid eating a lot of my favorite things. Dairy is in almost everything! And since a lot of Indian food is cooked with ghee (clarified butter), I’ve been wary of ordering Indian food at a restaurant.

Enter glorious chana masala, a simple dish featuring chickpeas cooked in a rich, spicy tomato sauce full of grated ginger and pressed garlic. This version comes together very quickly, ready from start to finish in under an hour, thanks to the help of canned chickpeas. And it is delicious!

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